***THIS WEEK IN EPICUREAN PHILOSOPHY – 10/25/2014***

**This is the seventy-eighth in a series of weekly reports on news from the world of Epicurean Philosophy. Our home base for discussion is https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/ Copies of these posts, and links to active Epicurean websites, are stored at EpicurusCentral.wordpress.com.

**As of tonight, our group has grown to 795. Last week this time we were 717. We continue to grow steadily, and we welcome all participants and lurkers. We are here to discuss Epicurean Philosophy, have fun, and in the words of Lucian, “strike a blow for Epicurus – that great man whose holiness and divinity of nature were not shams, who alone had and imparted true insight into the good, and who brought deliverance to all that consorted with him!”

**Last week I pointed out a recent discussion on the proper perspective on “pleasure.” There is a great debate among students of Epicurus on the meaning of Doctrines 3 and 4. Did Epicurus say Pleasure “IS” the absence of pain? Did he give a blanket endorsement to “living simply” in all cases? How can that be reconciled with Vatican Saying 63?

That discussion continued this week in a thread devoted to PD3 (“The magnitude of pleasure reaches its limit in the removal of all pain. When such pleasure is present, so long as it is uninterrupted, there is no pain either of body or of mind or of both together.”) https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/735676899814606/ This thread contained considerable detail on the meaning of PD3, but for tonight’s update I want to point out one specific point that I think will lead to great benefit in analyzing this question.

The commentator who I follow most closely, Norman Dewitt, argued that it is essential to realize that much of Epicurean philosphy is an explicit rejection of prior Greek philosophy, especially the views of Plato. If this is true, we should expect to find Epicurus teaching his students arguments to oppose Plato’s Academy, and also Aristotle’s Lyceum, at least to the extent that the Peripatetics carried forward Plato’s views.

It is therefore useful to scrutinize Epicurus’ Doctrines and the Letters to determine whether they passages that seem unclear to us might be replies to the philosophical establishment as it existed in Epicurus’ day. In other words, PD1 is clearly a response to the Greek religious establishment. By observing that perfect beings are complete and have no need for reward or punishment, Epicurus provided a foundation on which any thinking person could reason his way to seeing the contradictions at the root of all religions.

Likewise, all men naturally seem to fear death, and PD2 provides a foundation for the most important response. Once we see that “death is nothing to us” because “we” no longer exist after our atoms disperse, any thinking person can reason through the ramifications and see that the state of being dead is nothing to fear.

Both of these first two doctrines are models of clarity and precision, and we can immediately grasp their purpose. They are not commands to believe that the opposing views are wrong, but observations that serve as the essential proof from which anyone who thinks about them and accepts them is then equipped to refute who assert that we should live in fear of gods and of death. The assertion that gods and death are to be feared is a view that isย alive and well today, so we have no problem understanding who Epicurus was opposing, and how these doctrines serve as the medicine for curing these errors.

We can literally dash through doctrines one and two, grasping their significance immediately, and seeing how they can be applied to refute our opponents. But then we come to Doctrines 3 and 4, and (in my view) we immediately stop and say “What????” Whereas 1 and 2 were clear, 3 and 4 seem totally foreign to our way of thinking, and it is difficult to imagine why Epicurus switched from discussing universal concerns (about gods and about death) to discussing “the limit of pleasure” – something that appears to be a highly technical topic of interest only to professional philosophers.

I submit that the reason the significance of Doctrines 3 and 4 do not jump out at us is that we fail to remember the prevailing philosophical context of Epicurus’ time. We can clearly understand that Epicurus was confronted with opposing opinions on religion and on death, but what opinions did he face in promoting “Pleasure” as Nature’s guide to life?

There are many places one can look for this background, but one source that is likely to be fruitful is Aristotle’s “Nichomachean Ethics.” Aristotle and Plato were the recognized leaders of the Greek philosophical scene at the time of Epicurus, and though their fame survives today, few know the details of their philosophical positions. We can find much good information about this in Book Ten of Nichomachean Ethics, which devotes much attention to “pleasure.” In this chapter Aristotle relates that the argument that Plato used to “prove the good not to be pleasure”:

“Further, he argued that pleasure when added to any good, e.g. to just or temperate action, makes it more worthy of choice, and that it is only by itself that the good can be increased. This argument seems to show it to be one of the goods, and no more a good than any other; for every good is more worthy of choice along with another good than taken alone. And so it is by an argument of this kind that Plato proves the good not to be pleasure; he argues that the pleasant life is more desirable with wisdom than without, and that if the mixture is better, pleasure is not the good; for the good cannot become more desirable by the addition of anything to it. Now it is clear that nothing else, any more than pleasure, can be the good if it is made more desirable by the addition of any of the things that are good in themselves.”

Further down in the same book, Aristotle says:

“Nor again, if pleasure is not a quality, does it follow that it is not a good; for the activities of virtue are not qualities either, nor is happiness. They say, however, that the good is determinate, while pleasure is indeterminate, because it admits of degrees. Now if it is from the feeling of pleasure that they judge thus, the same will be true of justice and the other virtues, in respect of which we plainly say that people of a certain character are so more or less, and act more or less in accordance with these virtues; for people may be more just or brave, and it is possible also to act justly or temperately more or less. But if their judgement is based on the various pleasures, surely they are not stating the real cause, if in fact some pleasures are unmixed and others mixed.”

These two quotes only scratch the surface, but I believe they are sufficient to indicate that the philosophical establishment prior to Epicurus was teaching that pleasure COULD NOT be “the good” because (1) pleasure is incomplete, because it can be made more desirable by adding other things to it (such as wisdom), and (2) pleasure exists in degrees, while “the good” must be a superlative degree of which nothing is higher.

If this summary is correct, Epicurus had at least three major targest against which he had to arm his students. He had to arm his students against the argument of religion that men should fear gods, and he had to arm his students against the secular argument that death is something to be feared, and he had to arm his students against the argument of false philosophers that “Pleasure cannot be the good because it is incomplete and exists in degrees.”

By no means do I suggest that my formulation here is sufficiently precise. Much more studying of Plato and Aristotle would be required to fill out the background and understand Epicurus’ reply. But it seems to me that the meaning of PD3 (and also PD4, which also seems contrary to passages found in the same section of Aristotle) are probably a response to these Platonic objections against Pleasure as the good. In other words, Doctrines 3 and 4 were never intended to consitute an absolute requirement that all men should always “live simply” – this would violate Vatican Saying 63. What Doctrines 3 and 4 seem inteded to do is to set forth that pleasure unadulterated with pain (“in the absence of pain”) is complete in itself, that such pleasure needs nothing added to it that would make it better, and such pleasure is not flickering in intensity like a candle, but can and does exist – in unadulterated and thus the highest possible degree – as a supreme good.

Most of us today, at least in the Western world, do not regularly run into people who argue that pleasure is evil, and pain is good. These arguments still exist in fundamentalist religious and other circles, but they are rarely presented today as issues of “completeness” or “degree” as Plato and Aristotle presented them. In the pre-Epicurean days, however, As Aristotle makes clear, “…some say pleasure is the good, while others, on the contrary, say it is thoroughly bad-some no doubt being persuaded that the facts are so, and others thinking it has a better effect on our life to exhibit pleasure as a bad thing even if it is not.”

This means that Epicurus was faced with a world that preached at least three deadly errors: (1) the error that gods rule, (2) the error that death is to be feared, and (3) the error that pleasure is evil and is not the good according to Nature.

The entirety of Epicurean philosophy is devoted to showing how Nature provides that pleasure is the guide to life, to be pursued rationally using the faculties nature has provided. It would thus have been of supreme importance to battle against these error early, often, and at the deepest possible level. Understood in this way, Doctrines 3 and 4 constitute an explicit refutation of Plato and Aristotle, and not a mundane statement that we are best off eating bread and water. Epicurus was teaching that Pleasure can be complete in itself, that a “highest” state of pleasure exists; and that this state is not just a theory but something that is truly attainable during our lifetimes.

The study of Epicurus can often seem like detective work. Anyone interested in investigating these leads would be well served to read Norman DeWitt’s “Epicurus and His Philosophy” (where I found the basics of this argument) and compare it to Book Ten of Aristotle’s Nichomchean Ethics. https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/a/aristotle/nicomachean/book10.html

There is much more to be studied and said on this topic, but for now lets move to the news of the week:

**Several of the deepest posts of the week were started by Aurelius E., including this one on Epicurus’ attitude toward geometry: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/735304593185170/

**Aurelius E. also posted this one on the “hedonist criticism” of Epicurus, which was very helpful in pursuing the topic with which I opened up the update. https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/735385549843741/

**Continuing on the same line, I posted about the life story of Atticus, friend of Cicero, famous Epicurean, and someone who most certainly did not “live simply.” https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/736598433055786/

**Ilkka posted a link to a TED talk about how overindulgence leads to death. https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/735493936499569/

**Elli posted a graphic to an excellent quote by Nietzsche contrasting Stoic and Epicurean attitudes toward life: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10204590490145271&set=gm.735720609810235&type=1

**Hiram posted a link to an article at The Humanist Magazine on determinism. https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/735835409798755/

**Hiram also wrote an excellent article at HumanistLife.org.uk about the revival of Epicurean philosophy in the modern world. https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/736442216404741/

**This past week included the Twentieth of October, and I posted this article contrasting Stoic v Epicurean decisionmaking: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/735151806533782/

**Alexander posted an interesting link about how taste seems to be a function of shape of molecules, a very interesting parallel to Epicurean atomism if there ever was one. https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/736711923044437/

**We had many new members this week, but Piper Ang. was one of the few to speak up and say hello. We always encourage new members to do that, so please feel free to introduce yourself at any time! https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/736445729737723/

**Alexander posted to an article on “randomness,” which is also a topic in which precision is very important. https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/736726753042954/
**OK that’s it for this week! Feel free to post any comments in this thread. I apologize if I missed anyone or anything. As always, if you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, please add a comment or participate in the Epicurean Philosophy Facebook Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/ or hop around the internet word of Epicurean Philosophy by checking the links here: EpicurusCentral.wordpress.com

PEACE AND SAFETY!

Cassius Amicus

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***THIS WEEK IN EPICUREAN PHILOSOPHY – 10/18/2014***

**This is the seventy-seventh in a series of weekly updates with news from the world of Epicurean Philosophy. Our home base for discussion is https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/ Copies of these posts, and links to active Epicurean websites, are stored at EpicurusCentral.wordpress.com.

**As of tonight, our total “membership” has grown to 717. Last week this time we were 689. We continue to grow steadily, and we welcome all participants and lurkers. We are here to discuss Epicurean Philosophy, have fun, and in the words of Lucian, “strike a blow for Epicurus – that great man whose holiness and divinity of nature were not shams, who alone had and imparted true insight into the good, and who brought deliverance to all that consorted with him!”

**We’ve had another good week with many important discussions. Let me comment on one that has almost as most signficance as determinism, and sometimes (but not always) accompanies it in he minds of some people. We’ve discussed the issue before, but it is far from resolved. The issue is: the proper perspective on “active” vs. “passive” pleasures. It is well known that Epicurus considered the absence of pain to be a desirable state, but what is less clear is whether this state *constitutes* the “best” life; whether it *accompanies* the best life; whether it is a *necessary condition* for the best life; or whether it is a *sufficient condition* for the best life. Other Greek philosophers are known for advocating the “contemplative” life as the highest possible, but as in many other issues we should not jump to the conclusion that Epicurus was in agreement with them.

Students of Epicurus will find that there is a large body of thought that considers Epicurus to be almost what we today might call a “quietist.” These people see Epicurus as advocating a sheltered life (in a “garden”); as advocating restraining one’s desires and thereby restraining the pain of any desires that are unmet; and as generally advocating the pursuit of “static” over “active” pleasures. This is not my view, but there are definitely texts that can be listed in support of this position, so it is important to study it. Personally, I fear the argument crosses the line or comes perilously close to Stoicism and its suppression of desire, but I certainly see the argument and I do not believe it to be totally wrong. I simply think it is incomplete.

Relating the issue to determinism, I believe Epicurean philosophy is geared toward showing the individual how he or she can take charge of his life and maximize his or her pleasure within limits set by personal circumstances. Because I see this as Epicurus’ central theme, I cannot imagine that Epicurus would advise everyone to pursue happy living in a single way (in this case, but finding a better cave in which to bury ourselves). Certainly it is true that minimizing pain is all that some circumstances are going to allow some people to do. But I think in most cases, much more is possible and advisable. I look to passages such as near the end of the Life of Epicurus, where Diogenes Laertius recorded that “He [Epicurus] differs from the Cyrenaics with regard to pleasure. They do not include under the term the pleasure which is a state of rest, but only that which consists in motion. Epicurus admits both; also pleasure of mind as well as of body, as he states in his work On Choice and Avoidance and in that On the Ethical End, and in the first book of his work On Human Life and in the epistle to his philosopher friends in Mytilene.”

I then compare that passage to the description of all the pleasures referenced in “On Ends” as accompanying the happiest possible life. I compare further other passages where the desire for pleasure — even unnecessary pleasures– is not condemned for its own sake, but only in those situations when pursuit of those pleasures would produce more trouble than the pleasure that particular choice would bring. And I compare Vatican Saying 63, which states “63. There is also a limit in simple living, and he who fails to understand this falls into an error as great as that of the man who gives way to extravagance.”

My reading of all this is that Epicurus would not advocate for all people a single formula for happy living. A formula of “living with the fewest possible desires short of death itself” may be the best that some people can hope for, and would indeed constitute a life worth living, but for most people much more is possible. It seems to me that Epicurus was advocating a sliding scale in which we should choose to pursue the maximum pleasure – static AND active – open to us under our particular situaton. This would seem to me to be in accord with VS 50. (PD 8) “No pleasure is a bad thing in itself, but the things which produce certain pleasures entail disturbances many times greater than the pleasures themselves.” Under this analysis, all pleasures — even unnecessary ones — are to be desired and pursued **so long as our context allows us to calculate that the pursuit will bring more pleasure than pain.** This view would comport with the sole criteria listed in VS71: “Question each of your desires: โ€œWhat will happen to me if that which this desire seeks is achieved, and what if it is not?โ€ This question does not bless simple living nor damn extravagance. In fact, it does the reverse, it perfectly implements the Epicurean anti-Platonic view that there is no single “Ideal” goal of life, neither one set in another dimension of forms (Plato) or cognizable by “logic” and “reason” (Aristotle) rather than through the Epicurean canon.

I will not resolve this issue here, nor will we in months of facebook posts. However this topic, and others closely related, would be very good to think on and post about in the Facebook page. Even better for such a deep subject, this is the kind of issue that deserves extended treatment in blog posts. I hope you will help us carry this discussion along, and if you are interesting in topics like this I urge you to write out your thoughts at length and let us deliberate them in the friendly confines of the Epicurean Philosophy Group! ๐Ÿ˜‰

** Now for the news of the week:

**Starting the week, Alexander Rios posted to an article “Are You Really Conscious?” Ah, we never seem to get TOO far from issues of determinism, do we? ๐Ÿ™‚ In a better world we will have a detachment of Epicurean scholars preparing broadsides against determinism, and against the argument that knowledge is impossible (dogmatism/skepticism) and we can add this question to the list: Why do those who apparently think themselves unconscious spend so much time bothering those of us who ARE conscious?” https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/732235393492090/

**Amy J. posted to a quote from our friend Robert Hanrott with which I agree so much I have to repost in full: “Most philosophies, like religions, become successful by bolstering the power of the ruler or ruling class.” Robert Hanrott http://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/732401810142115/

**Elli posted a brief article about the Epicurean nature of one of the world’s oldest musical compositions, the Seikilos poem/song: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10204532981347587&set=gm.732400613475568&type=1

**Chad C posted a comment about skepticism that led to a brief but important series of comments: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/732711230111173/

**Ioannis A posted to a video on “Philotimo” that launched quite a discussion. I recommend both the video and the discussion for a penetrating analysis of how the world’s view of the essence of Greek philosophy may differ from that of Epicurus. https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/732491040133192/

**Hiram posted to an article about how the “Belief in Free Will Not Threatened by Neuroscience” (ths issue is never far away! ) https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/732036070178689/

**Ilkka V posted to a video: “Monte Johnson – Epicurus’ Cure for Unhappiness” https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/733179943397635/

**I posted a memorial to the birthday of the man who said (in part): “One has but to read Lucretius to know what Epicurus made war upon–not paganism, but “Christianity,” which is to say, the corruption of souls by means of the concepts of guilt, punishment and immortality.–He combatted the subterranean cults, the whole of latent Christianity–to deny immortality was already a form of genuine salvation.–Epicurus had triumphed, and every respectable intellect in Rome was Epicurean–when Paul appeared.” https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/733387466710216/

**Hiram posted an article entitled “The Third Way To Look At The Epicurean Gods” https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/733477840034512/

**Elli posted a link to a video “36 Hours in Athens” https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/734049906643972/

**Elli also posted a graphic about Epicurus’ comments on the spiral nature of the universe and how that comment seems to be validated by science. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10204555855079416&set=gm.733677303347899&type=1

**Alexander R posted to an article about “senses” beyond the five we normally think of, and started a discussion on how this might be related to Epicurus’ views: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/734281143287515/

**Chad C posted a comment about his reading in Skepticism which led to interesting discussion: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/732678083447821/

**Alexander R also posted a link to an article entitled “Does Everything Happen for a Reason?” https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/734541986594764/ No further comment as I have said enough on determinism for this week! ๐Ÿ˜‰

** The NeoEpicurean group reorganized this past week and can now be found here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/826515367406620/

** Finally for the week Hiram posted to an interesting interview with Elon Musk about his Mars colonization project. This link prompted lots of good discussion and brings me back to the point where I started this week. Should we look to the stars for the future, or should we be content in our local gardens? ๐Ÿ™‚ All kidding aside this is a tremendously profound issue, and I hope we will discuss it over and over in the future. https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/734185326630430/

**On a personal note, as this update goes to press I understand one of our admins (Elli) has taken a bad cold or flu. We will trust than neither she nor her contacts have recently traveled to West Africa, and that she will recover quickly and fully and soon be back to “defending the faith” (inside joke for you skeptical anti-dogmatists!) here in the Epicurean philosophy group!

**OK that’s it for this week! Feel free to post any comments in this thread. I apologize if I missed anyone or anything. As always, if you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, please add a comment or participate in the Epicurean Philosophy Facebook Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/ or hop around the internet word of Epicurean Philosophy by checking the links here: EpicurusCentral.wordpress.com

PEACE AND SAFETY!

Cassius Amicus

***THIS WEEK IN EPICUREAN PHILOSOPHY – 10/11/2014***

*This is the seventy-sixth in a series of weekly updates with news from the world of Epicurean Philosophy. Our home base for discussion is https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/ Copies of these posts, and links to active Epicurean websites, are stored at EpicurusCentral.wordpress.com.

**As of tonight, our total “membership” has grown to 689. Last week this time we were 640. We continue to grow steadily, and we welcome all participants and lurkers! We are here to discuss Epicurean Philosophy, have fun, and in the words of Lucian, “strike a blow for Epicurus – that great man whose holiness and divinity of nature were not shams, who alone had and imparted true insight into the good, and who brought deliverance to all that consorted with him!”

**We had a very active week in the group, and we’ve made significant strides to getting back on track with our mission of focusing on Epicurus and learning how we can better apply his way of thinking to our own lives.

Let me point out that an excellent example of how Epicurean ideas apply arose in the repeated discussion (three separate threads) of the story of Brittany Maynard. Ms. Maynard is the 29-year-old American woman who has decided to end her own life after being diagnosed with a rapidly expanding form of brain cancer which the doctors tell her is certain to cause her a very painful and unpleasant death. This issue implicates many aspects of Epicurean thought, from the central “death is nothing to us” to the repeated references to how there is no necessity for us to live under a painful necessity. The one I’d like to highlight in the weekly update is the issue that I posted on today in the latest of the three threads, the allegation by a religious writer that what Ms. Maynard is doing is wrong because “we do not own ourselves.” I won’t repeat my whole post, but one important observation is that in Epicurean philosophy we *do* “own ourselves” and self-reliance and independence and control over one’s life are key tools in living happily.

This is one reason why the “determinism” issue is so important – if we do not have the ability to act to change our circumstances in any way, then we do *not* in any real way “own ourselves” – we are playthings of the gods or or mechanistic fate. Here, the determinism of the physicists goes hand in hand with the determinism of religion in telling us to give up hope and give up trying to seek out happiness. If “we don’t own ourselves” enough to set our own goals, then who does own us and how are our goals to be set? Conveniently, the experts of determinist science and the experts of determinist religion will be happy to answer those questons. They’ll be happy to take ownership of your life if you let them, and they’ll be happy to tell you what to do and how to live so you can “fit in” with popular opinion – which is *their* opinion.

Epicurus told us not to give in to these voices: VS29. “To speak frankly as I study nature I would prefer to speak in oracles that which is of advantage to all men even though it be understood by none, rather than to conform to popular opinion and thus gain the constant praise that comes from the many.”

I know it sometimes seems repetitive to constantly discuss a single topic like determinism, but this is an issue that has so many practical applications that it is hard to over-study the issue. It’s sad to have to confront it in the prognosis for this young woman, but it is important that we study the Epicurean viewpoint so that we not missapply it. We know that in Epicurus’ own situation he did not commit suicide, even though he was in excruciating pain up to his last moment. But we don’t know whether he himself knew that his condition was terminal — for all we know, he thought he was suffering from a condition from which he might recover, as perhaps from which he had recovered in the past. We don’t know these things and we have no ability to create an iron rule for everyone at all places and all time — and THAT would be Stoic and anti-Epicurean even to attempt. But what we do know is that it is important to focus on Nature’s goal for our lives – living happily – and that we take responsibility for making the most of the time we have in our own circumstances.

Before we leave the topic, I’d like to highly recommend Hiram Crespo’s new article “Man is What He Makes of What Life Gives Him” which discusses this same issue. http://theautarkist.wordpress.com/2014/10/11/man-is-what-he-makes-of-what-life-gives-him/

(Links to our threads on this topic:
10/6 – https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/728886043827025/
10/7 – https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/729370243778605/
10/11 – https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/731442640238032/ )

** OK on to the news of this week:

**Hiram posted a link to his new page at Patreon.com where those who appreciate his work can consider contributing to help support the production of more: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/728106123905017/

**Leonard M. posted a link to an article “The Morality of Epicurus and its Relations to Contemporary Doctrines” from Marxists.org. Lots of good discussion about this one: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/727992873916342/

**Ilkka posted a link to the Wikisource version of Diogenes Laertius, which is an excellent page to link to when quoting from the Life of Epicurus: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/728528650529431/

**Panagiotis A. posted to a link regarding Sam Harris, which led to a length discussion of Harris’ perspective. https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/728600020522294/

**Christos T. just returned from a lengthy trip to Greece, and he posted several videos of the environs where the Epicurean school was probably located. These can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/728187827230180/ and here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/728262013889428/

**”Mulier Sapiens” introduced herself as a new member and a Spanish, Greek, and Latin teacher. We welcome her and we invite all new members to introduce themselves like she did. https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/728262013889428/

**Ilkka added a copy of the “Letter to Menoeceus” to the files section: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/728253280556968/

**I posted a brief comment on the “Farmer and the Viper” fable from Aesop, comparing it o an Epicurean viewpoint: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/729084107140552/

**Alexander R posted a link to a podcast on Victor Stenger, whose views on physics are of interest to those studying the Epicurean viewpoint on this topic: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/729202110462085/

**Hiram posted a nice reminder that those new to Epicurean philosophy can find lots of basic reading on my “Elemental Epicureanism” page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/729212403794389/ Direct link: http://www.elementalepicureanism.com

**A.E. posted a question about whether Epicureans today believe in gods. Always a good topic for discussion and this generated a lengthy exchange: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/729085257140437/

**Amy J. posted a link to a Ted presentation on teenage life in ancient Rome. https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/729283197120643/

**Several of our Greek readers answered my question about whether the widely-available internet translations of Lucian are faithful to the original (answer: pretty much so) https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/728881133827516/

**Ilkka posted to a page on the topic – “Objective Knowledge is A Myth.” This generated some important discussion about the meaning of these terms. https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/728881133827516/

**Elli posted a passage and a graphic regarding the logic of Epicurus vs. the logic of Aristotle which has been the subject of a number of recent posts. This is a very important topic which deserves much more study and development of materials. There are important similarities in the two, but equally if not more important differences, and those differences are very far-reaching. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10204476150646855&set=gm.729233527125610&type=1

**Newcomer Chad C. posted several interesting posts this week about Stoicism, which lead to interesting discussions. The first was here: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10204476150646855&set=gm.729233527125610&type=1 The second was here: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=671021063012156&set=gm.730727183642911&type=1 The third (is virtue its own reward?)was here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/730731340309162/ The fourth was here (healing visions from the gods?) https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/731602816888681/

**John C. posted on the Seikilos epitaph: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/729990233716606/

**Hiram posted to a very interesting article discussion the “Naturalist” aspects of Epicurean views: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/730510883664541/

**Yiannis T. posted to the “Perseus” edition of Diogenes Laertius: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/730193520362944/

**Chad C. also did us a great service by ordering one of the Epicurus medallions from Shapeways. Apparently there are quality issues with the first designed, which the artist is attempting to address. Follow the news here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/731071046941858/

**Chad C. also restarted one of our most enduring discussions, on the nature of the gods. Follow that well-commented post here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/731084610273835/

**Alan F. posted to a link on “Ten Questions for the Philosophy of Cosmology” https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/731493400232956/

**Leonard M. posted on the book “The Swerve” which gave us a chance to recommend it again, with the caveat that much of the book is devoted to the history of the middle ages rather than to Lucretius or Epicurus (but with that caveat the book is excellent!) https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/731452050237091/

**OK that’s most of the news for the week. The Admins have been discussing a couple of new projects that we hope to launch soon, so stay tuned!

**OK that’s it for this week! Feel free to post any comments in this thread. I apologize if I missed anyone or anything. As always, if you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, please add a comment or participate in the Epicurean Philosophy Facebook Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/ or hop around the internet word of Epicurean Philosophy by checking the links here: EpicurusCentral.wordpress.com

PEACE AND SAFETY!

Cassius Amicus

***THIS WEEK IN EPICUREAN PHILOSOPHY – 10/4/2014***

THIS WEEK IN EPICUREAN PHILOSOPHY – 10/4/2014***

**This is the seventy-fifth in a series of weekly updates with news from the world of Epicurean Philosophy. Our home base for discussion is https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/ Copies of these posts, and links to active Epicurean websites, are stored at EpicurusCentral.wordpress.com.

**As of tonight, our participant total has grown to 640. Last week this time we were 568. We continue to grow steadily, and we welcome all participants and lurkers! We are here to discuss Epicurean Philosophy, have fun, and in the words of Lucian, “strike a blow for Epicurus – that great man whose holiness and divinity of nature were not shams, who alone had and imparted true insight into the good, and who brought deliverance to all that consorted with him!”

** Last week you will recall that we announced the formation of a new Facebook group entitled “NeoEpicurean Philosophy” for purposes of focusing on conversation about topics beyond the scope of the focus of this forum. That forum is now operational at https://www.facebook.com/groups/neoepicureanism/ Here in *this* forum we are committed to providing a supportive, positive environment for those who wish to focus on the ofstudy Epicurus’ doctrines and discuss applying them in the modern world. If you peruse the new group you will find that not everyone there appreciates our approach. That should not surprise you! Epicurean views have always evoked strong responses. As Norman DeWitt said in the opening of his “Epicurus and His Philosophy, “At the very outset the reader should be prepared to think of him [Epicurus] at one and the same time as the most revered and the most reviled of all founders of thought in the Graeco-Roman world.” Active Epicurean coordination disappeared over a thousand years ago, but many in the world remain alert for his reappearance and continue to revile his core doctrines. “Free will” is anathema to religious fundamentalists as well as to secular determinists. The idea that “confidence in knowledge” can be obtained outside religion is outrageous to religionists, just as the contention that knowledge can be obtained at all is outrageous to the modern skeptics who dominate every branch of academia.

**We continue to wish the NeoEpicureanism forum well despite any unfortunate comments that are made. Just be assured that if you happen to read something about Epicurean philosophy there (or anywhere!)that you find disconcerting and would like explained from a core Epicurean perspective, please do not hesitate to ask us.

**One example of divergent views among fans of Epicurus is the topic I posted about here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/727352970646999/ Alexander R. asked a question about the concept of being stoical, and this gave me the chance to talk again about a major controversy that has raged for thousands of years – the difference between the stoic and Epicurean view of pleasure and its role as the goal of life. Those of stoic frame of mind would have you believe that Epicurus was something of a sly dog — they allege that Epicurus led you to believe that he was talking about “pleasure” as you understand the term, but that he really was not. They say that he was really of one spirit with stoicism, and that the Epicurean view of the “absence of pain” means that “absence of pain” (in those simple terms) is *the* goal of life. In other words, they allege that while you think Epicurus is instructing you on how to live pleasurably, he is really telling you to live like a stoic and to suppress your emotions, to flee and repress all desire for enjoyment, and to join the Stoics in their goal of ascetism.

There is a straightforward response to this, and I have marshalled the citations in the post linked above. But to prepare you for that, remember this: Just as with “gods,” Epicurus does not shrink from requiring you to think. He is not going to accept common definitions which contain major errors, either with “gods” or with “pleasure.” He is going to require you to examine the premises in each term and separate the true from the false. When you do, you will see that there are many strong reasons why Stoics and their related philosophers have attacked Epicurus for two thousand years. You can be sure that Stoics did not waste their time attacking a kindred spirit who simply used different wording. The Stoics knew who their enemies were, and they knew who was their friend in their quest to suppress personality and the joy of life. That’s why Stoicism merged with Christianity, while Epicureans fought the impositions of all religions.

In comparing Epicurean and Stoic views, you will find that this is one area where you can trust the general “colloquial” meaning of these words as they have come down to us today. Stoicism and its variants, just as the modern term implies, advocate suppression of emotion of all kind. Epicureans (again as the modern term implies) advocate experiencing life in all its fullness by maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain. The two views of life could not be more different, and it is essential that students of Epicurus not be confused about how they differ.

**Another example of divergent views can be found in Elli’s excellent graphic on “dogma” here: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10204431393527955&set=gm.726658604049769&type=1 If there is one thing that Epicurus stands for at its most basic level, it is that the nature of the universe and the nature of our faculties together allow us to determine the truth of those matters which are essential to our happy living. There is much that is beyond our knowledge and always will be (the other side of the moon; space beyond the reach of our telescopes; etc.) but Nature did not leave us floundering and unable to count the fingers of our hands. Many philosophers throughout history have taken the extreme skeptical position that NOTHING is certain and NOTHING can be known. They do this despite the circular reasoning and hypocrisy involved in asserting as a firm position that firm positions are impossible. Nevertheless, this attitude has triumphed in the modern world, and Elli produced the graphic referenced above to highlight how Epicurean philosophy does not share any of the truly negative aspects that skeptics like to argue is inherent in any assertion of knowledge. It is tiresome to have to explain this point over and over, but rest that this issue will never die, even in this forum. What we pledge to you in *this* forum, is that when you post here, you do not have to worry that you are talking to people who cannot count the fingers on their hands. We will leave those discussions to other forums, and we will equip you to see the nonsense of the opposing arguments.

**Moving on, there were many new and updated posts this week, and I invite readers to check them all for fruitful discussion. Let me highlight a number of the new threads in date order:

**Recent events led me repeat the excellent passage from “A Few Days In Athens” on “The Futility of Arguments” https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/725096497539313/

**Chad C. started a new thread on the ever-interesting topic of the role of “the gods” in Epicurean philosophy: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/725207297528233/

**Elli posted a very good graphic on the elements of leadership and mentoring (this was related to her other graphic on “dogma”: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10204409281495168&set=gm.725356420846654&type=1

**Christopher L. posted a link to an interesting article on “Epicurus and Job” https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/725339207515042/

**I want to single out Francisco M. for some excellent contributions this week. One which he inspired was this thread where we collected variations of the theme in art over the centuries which featured the theme of Democritus v Heraclitus: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/725405414175088/

**Recent events also led me to conclude it was a good time for me to recap some of the basic reasons for finding Epicurean philosophy helpful even today, in my essay “I Choose Epicurus” https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/726006934114936/

**Hiram announced that his “Tending the Epicurean Garden” is now available in epub/ebook format: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/726450627403900/

**Agamemnon K. posted to an interesting physics article with Epicurean overtones: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/726591910723105/

**Related to Agamemnon’s post, I posted a link (originally posted by the Epicurus page) to an interview with physicist George Elliott, which had MANY Epicurean overtones and implications: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/726578574057772/

**Christopher L posted to a new SHAPEWAYS 3d model which appears to be a very high-quality bust of Epicurus. I have not been able to order one of these yet but I will, and I will devote more coverage to this in the future. The bust appears to be much higher resolution than the one I produced previously, so this is well worth looking into, in addition to the medallions that are also offered. https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/725256674189962/

**Leonard M. linked to the excellent Melvyn Bragg radio interview: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/727090790673217/

**Hiram linked to a film on “forgiveness” – a very timely topic https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/727118504003779/

**Jakob Ae. asked an excellent question on application of Epicurean views to real life https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/727187217330241/

**Hiram posted to a “School of Life” link about Epicurus: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/727114127337550/

**Hiram also posted to a Humanist Press free offering of the Malone rendition of Lucretius: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/727345120647784/

**Elli posted to an article from Greece on the Swerve and its implications for free willhttps://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10204438003293195&set=gm.727075647341398&type=1

**Alexander started a good thread to discuss the Epicurean view that “”The misfortune of the wise is better than the prosperity of the fool.” https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/727083654007264/

**Nick N. Shared an excellent Nietzsche graphic: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/727732347275728/

**Eric C. gets credit for the most novel thread of the week with a female body-builder graphic – https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/permalink/727518963963733/

**In closing, I hope those of you who follow the group closely won’t let the events of the last week cause you to be unduly discouraged. The silver lining in this cloud is that rising intensity of disputes over philosophy and direction of the group show that *interest in Epicurus* is rising, and that as we are taking a firm stand we are indeed “striking a blow for Epicurus.” Do not be surprised to see more of this in the future, as we improve our ability to understand and articulate the ancient wisdom of Epicurus. The world is full of people who would prefer that everyone smile and nod and drift along under the influence of the mist that Karl Marx aptly called the opiate of the people. But religion is not the only opiate, and while religion may dominate today in some parts of the world, there are other opiates that are equally or more demoralizing and desensitizing. Those include the Academic doctrines of skepticism and determinism against which Epicurus has always carried the flag of battle. Epicurus pointed the way free from these errors over two thousand years ago when he – in Lucretius’ words – burst the gates that separate men from Nature. With the passing of the Epicurean age those gates were rebuilt and reinforced, and they will not lightly fall again to those who simply dabble Epicurus’ ideas and fail to study how he successfully defeated them in the ancient world.

Those of us who are sincerely studying Epicurus in this group cannot promise you success in your own effort to unbar the gates of Nature. What we can promise, though, is that when you come to the Epicurean Philosophy Facebook page for assistance, you will find support from true friends of Epicurus.

**OK that’s it for this week! Feel free to post any comments in this thread. I apologize if I missed anyone or anything. As always, if you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, please add a comment or participate in the Epicurean Philosophy Facebook Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/ or hop around the internet word of Epicurean Philosophy by checking the links here: EpicurusCentral.wordpress.com
PEACE AND SAFETY!
Cassius Amicus
Cassius Amicus